The DOOM Eternal video game was released in 2020, but two years later there's still some controversy concerning the game's official soundtrack with composer Mick Gordon offering a lengthy and detailed account of where things went wrong. The statement, complete with a table of contents, also serves as a rebuttal after the game's Software Studio Director Marty Stratton penned an open letter published on Reddit in 2020 that laid much of the blame on Gordon for the soundtrack's failure.
Gordon issued his lengthy statement and shared it via social media Wednesday (Nov. 9), breaking down some of the issues in trying to bring the score soundtrack to fruition and also summing up his reasoning for posting now. "Marty lied about the circumstances surrounding the DOOM Eternal Soundtrack and used disinformation and innuendo to blame me entirely for its failure. Afterwards, he offered me a six-figure settlement to never speak about it. As far as I’m concerned, the truth is more important."
The composer goes on to add, "Marty’s Reddit post severely impacted both my professional and personal reputation. In releasing this statement, I’m exercising my right to defend myself. It is a defence, not an unprovoked attack, issued with extreme reluctance only after all other attempts to resolve the matter have failed." He adds that part of the reasoning for posting the statement is to "prevent vague statements from turning into rumours and speculation."
Breaking down some of the initial issues, Gordon reveals that when he was brought on board, he was handed a schedule that required two levels scored per month, something that while not impossible left little margin for alteration. He also added that matching the music to gameplay was of importance, but difficulties emerged early on where he wasn't granted the materials in a timely manner.
Gordon also claims that a contract delay from id Software also put him behind schedule almost immediately, while a two-week marketing interruption turned into six weeks. Within the first two months, it became clear to Gordon that the schedule wasn't going to work and that without the necessary materials available, starting on music was difficult. So he says he proposed a schedule change, noting that attempting to create while using guesswork would only lead to future rejections, demands and rewrites to a schedule that already had no wiggle room. That plan was struck down by Stratton, he said.
Gordon says that left him in the position of having to deal with the schedule as it was, ultimately having to use his imagination to create music for score levels that he wasn't able to see as of yet, and that led to his compositions often getting trashed as they didn't match up once things were eventually finished, which he says led to urgent rewrites.
The composer also cited major oversights in the music budget, saying that as stages of the game grew in size beyond what had been anticipated, there were periods where hour-long levels had been allocated just 30 seconds of allocation music. So that led to more time lobbying to show that the 30 second allocation wasn't enough.
Elsewhere within his statement, Gordon calls out pay issues over usage in promotional events, delayed approvals that often left him hanging on the next step and increased scorn from management leading to more friction. Then, things took a turn for the worse with the E3 announcement that the DOOM Eternal soundtrack would be released in 2019.
Gordon says, "Pre-orders went on sale immediately, a severe issue because customers were putting money down for a Collector’s Edition item that had no way of materializing. The standalone OST wasn’t in production, and I hadn’t been offered a contract to produce it. In fact, we hadn’t talked about the scope, the timeframe, or whether it was even feasible." He adds that the first he learned of the soundtrack was in the media, and that the lack of a contract to produce the soundtrack also became an issue. Then by October of that year, he says he still hadn't received the materials needed to finish the score, hadn't been paid since January and was rebuffed when discussing a contract for the soundtrack. Then, just six weeks prior to the release date, DOOM Eternal got pushed to the following year.
Eventually, Gordon finished the project and was paid, but he says there were still more woes on the horizon. "By the end of the project, I’d delivered more than double the minutes stated in the contract. Pay disputes, project uncertainty, and an overly chaotic atmosphere compounded the stress. And the whole situation was made worse by disciplinarians who treated unavoidable problems as incompetent failures worthy of reprimand," says Gordon, who then lamented that a contract had still not been worked out for the official soundtrack.
Instead of being allowed to produce the soundtrack offering, Gordon says that he learned after the soundtrack was released that they had used nearly all the music he produced during development while only paying for half of it. Gordon says that eventually he took his beef to parent company Bethesda, who eventually agreed to work with him on the official soundtrack, but first a contract had to be ironed out.
With time running short, it was agreed that a 12-song soundtrack would be produced and that a soundtrack delay would allow for the time needed to turn it around. But that timeline quickly changed as he was told by Stratton that he had to finish sooner so as not to run into issue with consumer protection laws for the already delayed soundtrack. This was something Gordon says wasn't conveyed when signing his contract to do the soundtrack. Then it was revealed to Gordon that Stratton had the lead audio designer make an alternative official soundtrack cutting together songs from edited chunks of his in-game score.
"In his 'Open Letter' posted on Reddit, Marty later claimed that his decision to enlist Chad happened at the last minute and was due to fears I wouldn’t make the April 16 deadline. But the files Chad sent me tell a different story. Perhaps unknown to Marty, BWF Metadata details the exact creation date, time and software used by whoever made the edits. Metadata in Chad’s files show he began work on their alternative OST as far back as August 2019 (six months before I received the OST contract)," said Gordon.
That led to a major time crunch to meet deadlines. The alternate soundtrack wasn't up to standard, according to the composer and he says he didn't have the time or budget to address the issues with the edits made. While initially granted a small time extension, eventually Gordon was asked to turn over his work rather than being allowed to finish, never getting a chance to hear the final version before it was released and being dismayed by what was issued after it came out.
Gordon says that he and Stratton had then spoken about the issues with the soundtrack and agreed to issue a joint statement on how to fix things. Believing that he would receive a draft the next day, instead he was met with Stratton's Reddit post laying blame on him for the soundtrack issues.
That led to lawyers getting involved, with Gordon upset about the false accusations made against him and also the shipment of the Doom Eternal soundtrack with double the music than what they had paid for. Eventually a settlement offer was made, but when Gordon asked for Stratton's post to be taken down, the settlement offer was withdrawn.
Gordon says he was later presented with a new six-figure settlement in which he would take full responsibility for the soundtrack's failure. Stratton's post would remain up and he would not be allowed to discuss DOOM Eternal, the soundtrack or the Reddit post. Gordon rejected the offer.
"The truth is more important. I worked incredibly hard on the franchise, crunching for years to make it happen," says Gordon. "My scores for both games were very successful: the companies who released them enjoyed the benefits. To have all that thrown away by someone who blatantly lied to portray me as a person who brings 'uncertainty and risk' to any project, who now wanted to pay me off to preserve his reputation, was both troubling and hurtful. Threats, abuse and harassment. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, incidences of online abuse escalated at an alarming rate as Marty’s Reddit post led to frustration over my alleged professional failure, and toxic gamers grew openly aggressive. They shared my personal details via message boards, including Reddit, which meant that abusers could now reach me in more ways than ever."
Gordon says further legal dealings have always yielded the same result, a gag order for a financial settlement and Stratton refusing to budge on removing his Reddit post.
"I’ve worked on some great games, built lifelong friendships and worked my butt off in the trenches with some of the best creative minds on earth. I’ve had many great experiences in the game industry. My 'collaboration' with Marty Stratton wasn’t one of them. I never quit DOOM. I quit a toxic client," says Gordon
He concludes, "I’m forever thankful to the true-hearted folks who have continued to put their faith in me, even in the face of Marty’s attempts to damage my reputation. I’m happy to say the projects I’ve been a part of since have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my career. And I’m grateful to those around me who gave me love and support that kept me together when I was coming apart — they didn’t deserve to be put through this, either. I’m looking forward to the future and all the great stuff around the corner."
You can read Gordon's full statement here.